The illness of our soul

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Taseer is dead, in a physical sense. But in his death he survives because of the principle he stood for

I asked a Barelvi friend why we say Assalamo Alaikum? He said because it means peace be upon you. And why do we say that? He said because Islam salamati ka deen hai. I said I agreed with him but then what were the Barelvi crowds at Data Sahib and elsewhere doing on Jan 4 asking that Mumtaz Qadri be released for gratuitously and cold-bloodedly murdering Salmaan Taseer?

He said Taseer had committed blasphemy. I see. And how does he know that? Because Taseer opposed the blasphemy law in support of a non-Muslim woman, he replied. Ok, and what makes him, the Barelvi interlocutor, an expert on the law, its intent, its uses and abuses, the Islamic jurisprudence and much else that would allow him to offer an informed view? His retort: so many people could not have been wrong. I told him to read history to see how many times so many people have gone wrong.

How exactly did Taseer blaspheme, I said, by asking that the law be rationalised or because he supported a Christian woman? There was hemming and hawing. I persisted. Does Islam forbid public discussion of laws that are man-made? Is it enough to get killed for seeking justice for someone who has been sentenced by a lower court but could well be let off by a higher one?

He got irritated. What’s the point of all this, he demanded. The point should be clear, I said. No act of violence is an act of salamati (peace). Qadri, who killed Taseer, should be tried on two counts – for murder and also for tarnishing the image of Islam itself. Moreover, how does Islam, or for that matter any moral-religious creed, allow anyone to be both judge and executioner? Under what authority did Qadri arrogate to himself the right to judge Taseer and then without giving him the benefit of defence, execute him?

No matter how one looks at it, and I have not even gone one per cent into the legal-moral-logical complexities of what happened in Islamabad that fateful afternoon more than a year ago, Qadri’s act cannot be justified; there were no extenuating grounds for his dastardly act and his supporters, frothing from their mouths, are a bunch of dangerous dimwits.

That such crowds are now to decide the fate of this country, or think they can, should make our spines tingle with fear. On Jan 4, when some rights activists like friend Marvi Sirmed went to Kohsar to hold a meeting in memory of Salmaan Taseer, a group of beards appeared, threatening to kill those commemorating Taseer. They were escorted by armed policemen. The mourners had to disperse. The hooligans were victorious. Would the redoubtable Dr Rehman Malik, of the honorary-degree fame, in equal measure of which fame the infamy goes to the Karachi University, stand up and tell us why the police did not entertain the backsides of these beards for doing something so clearly illegal?

Let me recall. Taseer was a Pakistan Peoples Party leader. He was the PPP governor, even though he was nominated to the office by then General-President Musharraf. The last time I saw the map of Islamabad, I found Kohsar Market fairly close to the seat of the federal government. What stopped the Islamabad police from dealing with this bunch of potential murderers?

I know for a fact, and have written about it, that Rehman Malik D-infamous-Phil has been lackadaisical, to put it charitably, about nailing Qadri and his supporters. But should he get all the blame? It seems no one was prepared to stand up for Taseer, his act of bravery and his conviction except a handful of those who can see the tidings. Since Imran Khan talks about absolutisms, shunning the complexities of relativism, and since he is the rising star in this firmament, would it not have been in the fitness of things for him to give a statement to commemorate Taseer and the principle Taseer stood for?

Unless I completely missed it, and I am ready to apologise if I did, there was nothing from PTI or Mr Khan about Taseer. Of corruption Mr Khan never tires of talking and it’s good that he doesn’t, even though his assertions be rather simplistic. What about this total corruption of the religion of peace by misplaced, violent hordes, if not the corruption of the soul that seems to have entrenched itself within society in a way that leaves little to no room for any peaceful dialogue?

Pakistan faces many challenges. But one of the biggest is dealing with the remarkable absence of self-reflection in a rising majority that would even hound out Islamic scholars, let alone those who do not wear that badge of honour. How does a society advance itself and deal with complexities if it reduces spaces for dialogue? The Barelvi hordes that bay for the blood of anyone who wants to debate the abuse of Blasphemy Law have been killed by Deobandi hordes. Both use the principle of exclusion to kill those who want to question and argue.

It was a sad moment indeed that Qadri’s supporters gathered at the shrine of Data Sahib, the patron saint of Lahore, and demanded that which no decent society, if it wants to survive, can concede. And yet, we have seen this government constantly throw in the towel and let those who want to speak out be consumed by the hate-filled agenda of these hordes.

If the idea is to let these principles be sacrificed at the altar of petty politicking then the government of the day is deeply mistaken. Civilian governments survive in and through democracy. Democracy is about argumentation and negotiations in a non-violent mode. How can any government survive if it allows the shrinking of the very spaces that it needs for its own ultimate survival?

Taseer is dead, in a physical sense. But in his death he survives because of the principle he stood for. A year has passed. His family, and those of us who believe in basic human decencies, await justice.

The writer is Executive Director of Jinnah Institute. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect JI’s policy

47 COMMENTS

  1. Wow so President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani and Opposition Leader Nawaz Sharif shouldn't speak up, but Imran Khan should!

    Liberals are hilarious.

    • i agree with you. I have great respect for Mr. Hider but his omission of PPP leadership is surprising. Mr. Taseer was their governor but they do not speak of him much now. They should have been the one to bring the case to swift justice. Alas they do not have the spine and the legs. They are talking big against the Army, Supreme Court and opposition parties but when it comes to Salman Taseer's murder they are a bunch of scared cows.

    • True. The onus should "ideally" be on all the political leaders. But Imran Khan projects himself to be harbinger of change, which is why the reference has been made in the article. Try to comprehend what the writer is trying to argue here. And, if you read closely enough, you will realize that the writer has repeatedly pointed to the faliure of the government (aka Zardari and Gillani) to bring these beardies to justice.

    • I've read it closely. It is the government's failure and no one disputes that. I also believe that Imran Khan should've come out and made a statement.

      But shouldn't Asif Zardari or Nawaz Sharif or Altaf Hussain or Asfandyar Wali also made a statement? Remind me if I'm wrong but these are the leaders in the corridors of power right now – all enjoying layers and layers of security. Heck shouldn't the moral guardians of Pakistan today – the anchors on Geo, Dunya etc have done programs on Taseer?

      • Again, your are missing the argument completely. Asif Zardari and the likes are part of the system. They will never speak up against the Ills plaguing our society, unless speaking up complements their narrow, vested political agenda..The references made againt Rehman Malik highlight just that.. Its better to bang your head against the wall than to expect these crooks to do something that they haven't been able to do in the past 20 years, That is not to say its not their responsibility, as you think the article is trying to assert.

        On the other hand, Imran Khan is supposed to be the harbinger of change, without a vested political agenda, Rectification of these grave injustices should ideally have been an important part of his political manifesto. Sadly, its quite the contrary. I am a big supporter of Imran khan, but I think Ejaz has hit the nail on its head with this article.

  2. @athar
    Yes, onus is on Imran T. Khan because he has "special" power to change pakistan in 3 months with his "magical lotas and Lambs" , just as "Aladdin" could accomplish anything with his "magical lamp"!!

  3. Sorry to correct you but your liberal friends have already concluded that IK is a right winger. So shouldn't the onus be on the 'liberal' parties to condemn ST's murder aka PPP, MQM, ANP?

  4. very well written, terrorism is a very real issue. However, PTI saying anything more on the matter is pointless especially as they are not in government / public office. But questions must be asked of those who do sit in public office and grow fat on our hard earned tax money

    • PTI claims to be the party of revolutionary change. If they are, then let them make a break from the cowards who tremble at the sight of a beard and come out for the unconditional repeal of the blasphemy law.

  5. heart touching article , our sick minds .Not only awam r ignorant but mostly these so called ullem r have no knowledge of religion in its true sense .Real danger to Islam is from these prejudiced Mullas.

  6. "Where is Batman" Of course no argument or article is complete these days unless they bring up the inevitable (the Imran Khan bashing bit. Yes, I'm a supporter – of IK, not the bashing bit). What a good article, and what a ridiculous argument "Where is Imran Khan". When someone in our society rises up to do something, everyone wants him/her to do everything and then blame them for not being able to do it. How typical. But today's clear winner was not the article, but Mr. Ather's comments. Both of them. Thank you sir.

  7. Ijaz also has to see why the bearded mullah are so intolerant? Because they've been given imperfect education. And that was not the fault of other bearded mullahs. It was the fault of clean shaven liberal leaders that chose to spend on bubbly elixirs rather than educating the poor.

    • You must be a victim of the same imperfect education. If you hadnt noticed, education has been tightly controlled by exactly the same mullahs and their non-liberal (usually military) supporters. The "liberals" you bash have never actually had power or influence – that has always remained in the hands of the military and the mob.

  8. It was a liberal (Taseer) who had the guts to stand for a principle….all other actors who claim to be ideological champions are cowards (although they claim to be ghairatmant brigade)

  9. onus is on every pakistani , not just on IK or anyother politician ,,Society is polarized and it needs a decades to clean this mess spread by Zia

  10. EH. Very well stated. The issue of debate is not closed. The leaders will have to step up and state the ideal society. They will also need to admonish acts that are gradually killing the nation.leaders learn, or perish, not long ago Mian Saheb was unsure who civil society was and if it had a vote. Now they are learning about Youth votes.PPP should have stood up for ST, and it will haunt them in short time.

  11. // Democracy is about argumentation and negotiations in a non-violent mode. //

    1st officals of democracy must do this.But rather than using a deomocartic way or acting according to law… Mr taseer start doing press conferencing, and tv shows.

    I am not a qadri defended… But ST was also wrong.

    • Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't TV shows and press conferences a medium for expressing you opinions and arguments? And that, according to you, is democracy, right?

      So please remind me how ST was wrong in this case? Thanks.

  12. Ejaz Haider is correct. The real problem of Barelvis is that they do not believe or act according to what the Holy Prophet PBUH's sayings. They only express their immense love for him and then feel free to do whatever they want and expect he will come to their rescue on the Day of Judgement. This concept leaves little incentive to act right and to a great extent, explains moral decay in our society.

  13. OK OK we get the point . the attack on PTI was senseless but the article is very well written and points to some very real issues. I feel the root cause of the problem lies in lack of birth control. for every educated couple there are at most 3 kids and for every uneducated couple there are 6-12 the statistics are in their favour. unless we start some sort of a birth control campaign like Bangladesh did

  14. Didn't you PTI trolls even read the article? "And yet, we have seen this government constantly throw in the towel and let those who want to speak out be consumed by the hate-filled agenda of these hordes." He clearly criticizes the government. And since Imran Khan claims to be so different and morally superior to the rest, why shouldn't he be expected to speak out again such blatant na-insaafi (Tehrik-i-INSAAF, anyone)?? And to suggest that he shouldn't speak out because he isn't in elected office makes a mockery of the whole democratic system of campaigning and elections. If he doesn't make his stance clear, how will the public know whether or not to vote for him? For me, it's clear: if he did publicly take a stand on this issue, no one would be a bigger supporter of his than me. But if the above comments are indicative of the level of discourse among his supporters, then God help us should he get elected.

  15. This is not about IK or the government or the opposition. This is about the wretched mullah, the madrassah product. Pakistan needs a Kemal Ataturk desparately if we are to survive and progress.

  16. Why blaming islam is fashion. why to play with the law which is for islamic values. Untill there are the people who play with it and our belief there would be much more example of like taseer..

  17. why these freedom of speech people cant speak against jews against holocause . they only seem pleaseur ein playing with islamic values. wheterh you are practicisng muslim or not. we wiill be like this and play this role againa again

  18. The idea isn't that Imran Khan should and Nawaz Sharif et al shouldn't – it is that Imran Khan currently stands for something. His very platform is such that it calls for him to make a statement. Yes everyone should make a statement, but it is especially strange (or illuminating) that Imran Khan didn't.

  19. Why does the attack always go towards liberalism, re 'liberals are hilarious'

    Let's stick to basics, Qadri committed a crime and should be punished accordingly.

  20. very well written. bring in a unifirm education system and close all those madrassahs and cambridge schools

  21. Well there is a mumtaz qadri website and you should see the comments there of our learned political , judicial , journalists/anchors, theocracies comments in writing there I fear for Jinnah's Pakistan.

  22. Anyone of sane mind would condemn the arbitrary murder of someone willing to stand up for his principles! To expect any politician/political party of today,to do this is insane. They pander to convenience and whatever is expedient at the time.

    A well written and insightful article!

  23. "Pakistan faces many challenges. But one of the biggest is dealing with the remarkable absence of self-reflection in a rising majority… How does a society advance itself and deal with complexities if it reduces spaces for dialogue?"

    Well said, sir.

  24. The one sided argument. No solid reasons. it is attempt to blame Barelvi sect. Writer must contact to the Famous scholars on that issue not the general people. Usually general public do not have in depth knowledge of the religion and jurisprudence. its looks that the story is the writers own creation. Because there is no reference made. writer is taking such a important issue very lightly and creating misunderstandings about the barelvi maslaq. He must also give opinion of the other maslaqs to make his article more reliable.
    Is the writer is expert of Islamic jurisprudence or Islamic teachings. It is common in these days every one is trying to be the expert of all things, and its looks that writer is one of the.

    • You missed the point all together. By claiming that ordinary people do not have in-depth knowledge of religion, you yourself are supporting the crux of the writers argument that Qadri neither had the authority, nor the knowledge to determine whether Salman Taseer was out of line or not.

      The writer never claimed he was an expert on Islamic Jurisprudence. He just made a logical argument about Islam being a "Salamti ke Deen" and the fact that dialogue is needed to understand Islamic jurisprudence rather than ignorantly supporting people such as Qadri in the name of Islam.

  25. What I feel is most important and the writer has missed out mentioning is the fact that this Qadri chap killed the very man whom he had taken oath (was deputed) to protect. That is a crime unforgivable even in the law of the jungle. He should be hanged upside down for this very reason.

  26. Qadri did the right thing by dispensing Islamic Justice. Taseer committed blasphemy and its punishment is death. Simple.

    • Why not let the Shariah court decide that and put him to trial. By your argument, a legal system (even a islamic one) should not exist. In other words, If, by my understand of Islam, someone is committing a crime, I should have the right to execute that person. Yes, Bravo! Lets go back to ancient anarchic times and start living in Jungles.

      Sir, open your mind up and get out of the shell you are living in. What you are talking about is not Islam. Its barbarianism.

    • Who? What? I can't even start to argue with this load of crap. I can fill pages to disprove every single word you have said here. But I shall not expend my valuable energy in trying to justify the truth to twerps like you.

      • Brother Hammad, what I wrote which is not true? Initially I was as angry and astonished as you are today. But truth is truth either you like it or not.

  27. wow Ejaz Haider…i,m amazed at the level of hatred you posses regarding islam and its principles along with the hypocricy you reflect.taseer tried to step in the normal judicial process…but i guess you cant see that….he crossed the line and called it a black law…but u have to look the other way….he made a mockery out of the whole judicial process but you dont say a thing about….and here you are…professing and advocating his case of arrogance and utter defiance……you are as despicable as he was.keep it up…..u might get a bit of fame one day too.

  28. Qadiyani is a coward traitor and a murderer. He did not have guts to quit his job of being ST Shaheed's bodyguard and then take up arms against him. He was illeterate product of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the other products of IRP are hypocrite who say that even death is acceptable in defending someone's honor but then again they want Qadri to be pardoned. Let the Ghaazi Sb be executed so that he is Ghaazi Shaheed. The family of ST should pardon Qadri: it will help save their son and also prove the principle of Qadri and the other bad product of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, wrong. Pardon Qadri and this will defeat the ideology for which Qadri and his bunch of Aashiqaan-e-Rasool stand.

  29. I share your concern, Mr. Haider. Indeed, Pakistan has been taken over by religious fundamentalists, and, this is the most dreaded situation by any country. Religious fundamentalists listen to no one and pollute the innocent minds with their own religious theories that even do not exist in religious texts. It is the beginning of Pakistan's end, i am afraid, but it is the case in Pakistan. As an Indian and a Hindu, it pains me deeply because i always held that there was enough space in Islam for every body to exist. These religious fundamentalists have proven me wrong. There is something seriously wrong with Pakistan and now it has come too far to be back. may Allah bless pakistan and its people.

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